First name

Text source

George Ayscue's date and place of birth are unknown, but can be placed around 1615. He was born into a family of long established Lincolnshire landed gentry. His father held a minor court post under Charles I. Ayscue was knighted 9 August 1641, and married Mary Boys, the widowed daughter of Martin Fotherby, Bishop of Salisbury, before 1645, and thus became kin to Sir Henry Vane. A son, George, was baptised in 1645, but died sometime before 1672. His stepson was a Royalist, John Boys of Hoad Court, Kent. Ayscue lived in "considerable style" at Hamm Court, Weybridge, Surrey, with additional income from commercial ventures. 

British Civil Wars: No records of naval command before Expedition, 1646. Siege of Pendennis Castle, Cornwall, and Scilly, 1646. Governor of Scilly 1646-January 1647. 1647 commander of Antelope. February 1648 commander of Lion, one of only two out of seven 2nd and 3rd rates in the 1648 summer guard remaining loyal to Parliament during the 1648 naval mutiny. With Lion's officers sent loyal message to Earl of Warwick, 7 July 1648. Rear Admiral under Warwick for mission to Hellevoetsluis against the defected fleet, September 1648. 1649 Admiral of the Irish Seas, securing flow of supplies to Dublin whilst preventing shipments of Royalist arms, landed naval guns for Dublin garrison, June 1649. Appointed Governor of Barbados 1650, but ordered to join Blake for Scilly operations, 1 April 1651, to forestall any move by Tromp's Dutch fleet in retaliation for Royalist privateering. Sailed from Plymouth 5 August 1651, with 7 ships, flag in Rainbow: pressure on King John of Portugal while at Lisbon, 16-21 August. To Barbados via Cape Verde for water, seizing large amounts of Dutch shipping trading there in contravention of legislation after arrival, 16 October. Surrender of Barbados after Willoughby's troops mutinied 3 January 1652, Ayscue offered generous terms and articles signed 11 January. No resistance from the other Royalist colonies. Back in England 25 May with 36 prizes. He may have picked up a tropical illness. 

First Dutch War: Vice Admiral in the Channel, Rainbow, 1652; with 9 ships attacked large Dutch convoy in the Narrows, most driven aground and destroyed, taking 5 prizes. In the absence of Blake in the north, Ayscue in the Downs with 20 ships determined to fight Dutch fleet of 90 sail under Tromp, 11 July, but wind conditions prevented Dutch attack. Appointed Admiral in the Channel, flag in George. Ordered to escort returning English Indies fleets from the Western Approaches into Plymouth, July. Took 4 prizes early August with about 45 ships attacked Commodore De Ruyter with possibly 30 warships and convoy of 60 WIC ships, 16 August - battle off Plymouth (Casquets), for 2 days; minor defeat due to caution and/or cowardice of some English hired merchant captains, but Ayscue praised for his bravery. Approached by anti-war Independent preacher Hugh Peters whilst refitting at Plymouth; passed this letter onto Parliament. Summoned to Committee for Trade and Foreign Affairs late 1652. Considered for Mediterranean command, November, but either relieved of Channel command by Council of State, reason unknown, possibly for leniency shown at Barbados, or resigned claiming ill health [uncertain]. Weybridge estate had suffered long term damage by canal speculators during his absence. Arrears for Barbados service not paid until November 1652. December 1652 the Rump voted grant of £500/year and lands in Ireland worth £300/year as compensation for damages to his estate. Considered again for command when Blake ill in 1653 but rejected; seems to have been too popular with the seamen, possible doubts over religious and patriotic zeal and his loyalty to Cromwell, but praised by Cromwell and granted honorary degree from Dublin by Henry Cromwell, August 1655. Asked to be excused West Indies service, 1655. Rumours of Stuart plans to use Ayscue in 1656. Said to have later refused to serve under Cromwell.

Swedish service: Swedish connection made during George Fleetwood's visit to Hamm Court, in August 1656; refused top English command on Blake's death. Ayscue wrote to Karl X Gustav requesting employment. Fleetwood allowed to recruit Ayscue as Admiral, Owen Coxe as Rear Admiral, another 13 or 14 English captains and 13 or 14 lieutenants, and 400 seamen for the Swedish navy. One source notes that a fleet of 21 sail accompanied the admiral. Ayscue's Swedish commission dated 26 August 1658; to receive 4,000 Riksdollars/year and an additional 266 Rdr/month while at sea, an English master on 1 Rdr/day, an English- and German-speaking secretary paid as a lieutenant (1.5 Rdr/day), and an English barber on 16 Rdr/month. That year Ayscue wrote to King Karl X Gustav from Harwich. Ayscue's party were transported in Essex and Maidstone, detached from Vice Admiral Goodson's fleet, and the Swedish Engel. Appalling winter weather and ice delayed the departure from England and arrival in the Sound of both the English Baltic intervention force and Ayscue's party, leaving in December 1658 but forced to return from the Skaw the same month. Engel was in Yarmouth by 24 December, the English ships with Ayscue and 200 men landed at Harwich by mid January 1659. The exact date of Ayscue's arrival in Sweden is unclear; Maidstone arrived at Helsingør 27 January, but Karl X Gustav wrote on 29 March requesting that Ayscue bring 600 English seamen. Two letters from Ayscue to the king survive from that year. April 1659 is likely as Ayscue left the king to see Mountagu in the Naseby off the Sound, 15 May. The shipbuilder Sheldon was also probably in Ayscue's party as he was taken into Swedish service 19 May. Ayscue left Landskrona 30 June in the Viktoria (74 guns) with 11 other warships, was however unable to combine with the English, but the Swedish fleet was able to ride in the Sound. Mountagu and the English fleet left for home on 26 August 1659 and Ayscue returned to Landskrona in the face of Wassenaer's and De Ruyter's superiority. Coxe was highly successful in July, but Ayscue's next sortie on 6 November 1659 - in Drake (66 guns), with Coxe in Cesar (54 guns) and 21 other warships - against a Dutch convoy bound for Copenhagen - mission aborted because of Dutch strengthm and he was recalled 18 November. Ayscue in command at Landskrona until 6 March 1660. Date of return to England uncertain; recall discussed 14 June 1660, Swedish commission expired 8 September.

Restoration and Second Dutch War: Ayscue was a known Royalist sympathiser but he was probably not used as an intermediary, unlike other admirals. Appointed Commissioner of Navy at Restoration, close advisor of James, Duke of York. Vice Admiral of the Blue under Sandwich (Mountagu), 1665, and joined in attack with Myngs and Albermarle (Monck) on Sandwich over 1665 VOC prize goods scandal. 1666 'his Majesties Surveyor General' for Wey Navigation scheme. Admiral of the Blue or the White [uncertain] in Royal Prince for 1666 campaign; taken prisoner at the Four Days' Fight (1-4 June) after she ran aground on 3 June on the Galloper Sand and stuck fast without support and outnumbered. According to his own account he intended to blow her up and it was the crew that struck her flag. The Dutch took Ayscue and the men off and then burnt Royal Prince. Ayscue was paraded through The Hague to contradict rumours of his ill-treatment - that he had been painted as the Devil, burnt, and blown up - appeared before the States General and was courteously received. Prisoner at Loevestein Castle until October 1667; the Dutch refused to release him after the peace until he had paid 11,000 guilders for his board and lodging, the Dutch also refused security for the money. Returned to England November 1667 and well received by Charles II.

Last Years: Not much known after 1667; commander of Triumph 1668, 1669 visited Irish estates but returned to claim compensation for damages received through the Wey Navigation scheme. His wife Mary died 1670. 1672 Vice Admiral of the Red under James but died at his Westminster house, 5 April 1672, just after the outbreak of the Third Dutch War, but before the start of the fleet campaign. Buried 13 April at St Margaret's, Westminster.


This article was compiled by Andrew R. Little.

Sources: Swedish Riksarkiv, bref till konung Karl X Gustaf; Riksarkivet, Biografiska Anteckningar om Officerare vid Orlogsflottan 1600-1699,p.57; John Thurloe, A Collection of the State Papers of John Thurloe, ed. J. Birch (1742), vol. VII; R.C. Anderson, Naval wars in the Baltic 1522-1850, (London, 1969), 87, 95, 96, 98; Bernhard Capp, Cromwell's Navy: The Fleet and the English Revolution 1648-1660, (Clarendon, Oxford, 1989); J. D., Davies, Gentlemen and Tarpaulins: The Officers and Men of the Restoration Navy, (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1991); P. Le Fevre, 'Sir George Ayscue, Commonwealth and Restoration Admiral', Mariner's Mirror, 1982, pp. 189-202; R. Hainsworth & C. Churches, The Anglo-Dutch Naval Wars, 1652-1674, (Sutton, Stroud, 1998); J. C. De Jonge, Geschiedenis van het Nederlandsche Zeewezen, vol. I (Kruseman, Haarlem, 1858); J. R. Powell, 'Sir George Ayscue's Capture of Barbados in 1651', Mariner's Mirror, 1973, pp. 281-290; DNB. A picture of the admiral is held at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London.

English Civil War; British Civil Wars

Service record

Departed 1646-08-01, as CAPTAIN
Capacity OFFICER, purpose NAVAL
Departed 1647-01-01, as CAPTAIN
Departed 1648-09-01, as CAPTAIN
Capacity OFFICER, purpose NAVAL
Departed 1648-12-31, as REAR ADMIRAL
Capacity ADMIRAL, purpose NAVAL
Departed 1649-12-31, as ADMIRAL
Capacity ADMIRAL, purpose NAVAL
Departed 1651-04-01, as UNKNOWN
Capacity GOVERNOR, purpose NAVAL
Departed 1651-08-04, as UNKNOWN
Departed 1652-05-25, as ADMIRAL
Departed 1652-12-31, as ADMIRAL
Capacity ADMIRAL, purpose NAVAL
Departed 1659-04-01, as ADMIRAL
Capacity ADMIRAL, purpose NAVAL
Departed 1660-09-08, as ADMIRAL
Capacity ADMIRAL, purpose NAVAL
Departed 1664-01-01, as VICE ADMIRAL
Capacity ADMIRAL, purpose NAVAL
Departed 1666-06-03, as ADMIRAL
Capacity ADMIRAL, purpose NAVAL
Departed 1667-10-01, as ADMIRAL
Capacity PRISONER, purpose NAVAL
Departed 1672-04-05, as VICE ADMIRAL
Capacity ADMIRAL, purpose NAVAL